Adriana Varejão - Latin America New York Monday, November 24, 2014 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Victoria Miro Gallery, London
    Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2002

  • Exhibited

    London, Victoria Miro Gallery, Adriana Varejão, 30 January - 28 March, 2002

  • Catalogue Essay

    “My narrative does not belong to a time or place. It is characterized by discontinuity. It is a tissue of histories. Histories of the body, or architecture, of Brazil, of tattooing, of ceramics, of old Portuguese azulejo tiles or modern, ordinary ones, of maps, of books, of paintings…" Adriana Varejão

    Adriana Varejão’s complex and innovative oeuvre unravels and almost obsessively depicts a continuous narrative of the complex history of Brazil, where the design of one canvas is only a point of departure for the next work. Each new phase poses a novel challenge and, as Paulo Herkenhof aptly states, her procedure is the “construction of a deconstruction.” When she envisions her projects, “Adriana starts of with what she has: she distributes, re-assembles and creates based on narratives that she patiently collects, re-reads and re-makes.”

    Pictorially, her narratives reveal a strong Baroque tendency, reflected in her use of ravishing colors, dramatically appealing to the senses and emoting exuberance. She also explores the ideas of materiality and surface through works that evoke the tradition of Minimalism. However, the real innovation is that the works are not Minimalist per se, nor do they represent an object in an abstract way; instead her objective is to denote a surface that suggests layered tiles. In this sense, Varejão can also be seen as a bricoleuse, one who is good with her hands, who collects fragments of histories and translates them to a surface.

    This brings us to the one element that is a constant throughout her artistic trajectory, that of tiles or azulejos. Her works are imbued with the language of azulejos and the verb “azulejar.” Her use of azulejos comes from an obsession to reconstruct the imagery of the famous Portuguese artist Bordalo Pinheiro’s 19th century Faience, tin-glazed pottery, from Caldas da Rianha. Historically, once the Portuguese learned the technique of tiling they monopolized the export of tiles to Brazil. In Brazil, it was not until the Dutch introduced the technique of making ceramics, which they learned from the Chinese, that Brazilians could appropriate tiles as their own. However, by the end of the 16th century, tiling had become part of their national reality.

    The tiles were produced at a historical moment when the Portuguese economy was flourishing because of the trade in gold. Thus, the azulejos paved castles, churches, floors and ceilings alike. The azulejos were infused with foliage and iconography from other cultures, not only evincing a Baroque tendency but appropriating it and changing its meaning into the pious religious iconography of the time. Thus, one way to envision tiling is as a “dialogue of exchange and theft where its heritage is common to both East and West.” Furthermore, the verb “azulejar” which means “garnishing with azulejo tiles” also means “making blue.” Making blue refers to a state of mind Brazilians call saudade and consider a national characteristic. Blue is more than an observational description, it also refers to feeling blue or having saudade: a concept hard to translate that fluctuates between implying luck, misfortune, sadness and even hope. Additionally, it refers to Varejão’s palette of a myriad of shades of blue. Ultimately, in Varejão’s works, the azulejo is a language she uses to tile, to pave a narrative.

    The best way to exemplify Varejão’s discourse is through her work, such as the present lot, Macau Wall (Blue), where she deconstructs the concept of tiles and constructs her own tiles in this seemingly austere installation: monochromatic tiles made of layers of oil and plaster on canvas, ascribing importance to the representation of the surface. This series of works exploring azulejos positioned Varejão at the forefront of contemporary artists, leading to numerous solo exhibitions at prestigious galleries and placing her work within the greater context of international contemporary art.

  • Artist Biography

    Adriana Varejão

    Brazilian • 1964

    The diverse work of Brazilian artist Adriana Varejão examines such themes as anthropology and miscegenation in contemporary Brazilian society. Born in 1964 in Rio de Janeiro, Varejão possesses an oeuvre spanning painting, sculpture, works on paper, installation and photography.

    A common motif in Varejão's oeuvre is that of the Azulejo, a traditional Portuguese ceramic tile. In her most famous series, Jerked-beef ruin (2000-'04), Varejão ruptures the ceramic tiles violently exposing a flesh-like interior. The stark contrast between the aesthetically pleasing blue geometric tiles and the visceral interior provides commentary on modern forms of colonization in contemporary Brazilian society.

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Macau Wall (Blue)

oil and plaster on canvas, in six parts
each 39 3/8 x 39 3/8 in. (100 x 100 cm.)
overall 78 3/4 x 118 1/8 in. (200 x 300 cm.)

Each signed, titled and dated "Macau Wall A. Varejão 2001" and numbered "23 (blue)", "2 (blue)", "14 (blue)", "19 (blue)", "20 (blue)" and "16 (blue)" on the reverse, respectively.

$700,000 - 900,000 

Sold for $845,000

Contact Specialist
Laura González
Director of Latin American Art
New York
+1 212 940 1216

Latin America

New York Auction 24 November 2014 2pm